A friend of mine currently buried in her doctorate posted this on facebook. Arguably whoever created it had too much time on their hands (perhaps they were waiting for the thesis to be returned rather than in the throws of writing).
I’m sure science students have been complaining about their projects since there were projects to complain about. Nevertheless, it seems to me that there has been a shift in the last two decades. When my contemporaries were doing PhDs they usually found the first year or so fairly pleasant. Everyone of them reached a point where they were desperate, thought they’d never finish, considered dropping out etc. But these were always well into the time. Most actually took some time off and returned to the topic refreshed.
These days I’ve found myself sharing a house with two neuroscience PhD students and knowing many others in various fields. What I notice is that dissatisfaction seems to be kicking in much earlier in the course. Moreover, there seem to be fewer options available. Taking a break for a few months and doing something else is unthinkable, the pressure to finish promptly is greater.
Some people have told me this is more about the field of study than the passage of time. Maybe that’s right. I now know more medical/biological students, where once those I knew were mostly in physics or humanities. Perhaps it also has a little to do with rosy memories.
Nevertheless, I’m busy working on an article on the high drop out rate of women in science, and I can’t help wondering whether the high pressure/low support for PhD students is one factor in this very serious problem and this might be getting worse. If so, we’re making a very expensive mistake. Who can blame them if a few go a bit Gaga.